Because I started training jiu-jitsu around the same time that I received my karate black belt, I’m afraid that some people might think I’m a “belt-chaser”. It may appear that I started something else just so I could get another black belt. If that was the case, I would have chosen something much easier than jiu-jitsu! It will probably take at least another eight years for me to get to black (and by that time I’ll be around fifty years old).
For me it’s never been about the belt, I’ve never even wanted any belt I’ve ever received. I have tried to give my black belt back a few times since I’ve gotten it. The truth is, I prefer being a student to being an instructor. Instead of chasing the belt rainbow, I want to flee from it. So I suppose part of my issue with focusing so much on jiu-jitsu lately (instead of karate) is my discomfort with how I feel my black belt is perceived. In karate I stand with people who have been training for over twenty years, yet new people only see that I wear the same belt as the seniors. I feel like I am compared to them (and I come up short). Shihan says “A black belt is a black belt, and all should be treated with the same respect”, but that doesn’t mean they all have equal knowledge and skill.
Just as the belt-chasers think that having a certain color belt will change people’s perceptions of them, so do I, but in the opposite way. They feel like the color of their belt validates them in some way, and I feel like it causes me to be judged more harshly. When I put on a new belt, I am still the same person as I was before, yet I am looked at differently. In my own mind I don’t want it to matter what belt I wear, but it does.
Not wanting a belt is actually a reflection of fear. It’s an unwillingness to accept the responsibilities and expectations that come along with it. If I had been allowed to not move up in rank like I wanted to, I would be much farther behind in my training and growth, because it would have allowed me to stay in my comfort zone. So now when I am awarded a new belt, I realize that learning to handle wearing it is a big part of my training. It is yet another challenge that I must overcome. To believe that I deserve it (and I can prove it), I have to work more, try harder, and learn things I might not have if I was allowed to remain stagnant.
If all you’re after is the pot of gold, you will probably be disappointed in the end. It’s not okay to just chase belts, but you can’t run away from them either.